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What is e-learning, why and when to use it
E-learning includes numerous types of media that deliver text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video, and includes technology applications and processes such as audio or video, and computer-based learning, as well as local intranet/extranet and web-based learning. Information and communication systems, whether free-standing or based on either local networks or the Internet in networked learning, underly many e-learning processes.
The modern day e-learning environment can be divided into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous e-learning involves online studies through chat and videoconferencing. This kind of learning tool is real-time. It is like a virtual classroom which allows students to ask, and teachers to answer questions instantly, through instant messaging, which is why it is called synchronous. Rather than taking lessons alone, students associating themselves with synchronous e-learning software or online courses can easily interact with fellow students and their teachers during the course.
Asynchronous learning can be carried out even while the student is offline. Asynchronous e-learning involves coursework delivered via web, email and message boards that are then posted on online forums. In such cases, students ideally complete the course at their own pace, by using the internet merely as a support tool rather than volunteering exclusively for an e-learning software or online interactive classes.
Classroom vs. Online Learning
When considering a delivery method for your training, you should consider the differences between “classroom” and online concepts. Below is a chart that will help you in determining what delivery methods you should consider to implement your training objectives.
When To Use eLearning
There is really no standard answer for using online over classroom training. However, the following list might be helpful when analyzing how online learning might be implemented into a training curriculum and improve the learning process.
- When training needs exceed trainer resources. Sometimes a project may not allow enough time to train a large number of people or the facilities to conduct the training. In these instances, online learning is a great delivery method to accomplish the training. Computer-based training can reach a vast number of people at the same time to meet difficult deadlines. Computer-based training is also not limited to space (facilities) or geographical boundaries (world-wide access).
- To simulate systems or other work environment applications that a classroom may not be able to replicate. One of the best uses of online learning is applying simulated environments. Simulations offer the learner the ability to practice and learn a system or application without the dangers of interfering or deleting live data. While the classroom can only explain the system or application, online learning can also simulate an environment that mirrors the real world. Using this technique can greatly enhance the learner’s ability to comprehend and apply various skills necessary to learn and perform the job. Also, combining both classroom and computer-based training (a blended learning environment) can create a powerful learning experience for the learner.
- When content consistency is critical. An advantage of classroom training is that it can be customized, meaning that the instructor can add value to the course by using personal experiences. The disadvantage of classroom training is that each class is different based on the instructor’s and/or students’ personalities and learning styles. However, online training provides consistency in the delivery of the materials to provide everyone the same learning experience. When it is important that everyone receives information or instructions the exact same way, then online learning is a great option to deliver the training.
- To communicate minor changes or updates to systems and procedures. Sometimes, there is not enough information necessary to conduct classroom training. However, the information is important and must be communicated to employees or students. In these situations, computer-based training is an excellent option to deliver the message.
- To reduce training expense. Expenses of instructors, facilities, workbooks, and other supportive materials can take its toll on an education or training budget. When the budget is small, online learning can be a great alternative. This is not to say that computer-based training does not cost, as you need to have the infrastructure such as server capabilities, access to computers, and developers to create the materials. However, after the initial investment, the cost of computer-based training is actually much less than classroom facilitation. Print costs alone for many programs can put a strain on the budget. Online materials are minimal, and possibly non-existent. While it should not be the first thing to consider when determining to use online over classroom training, it is still a consideration that must be addressed.
Basic Elements of an E-Learning Course
When something is new, it can feel complex and difficult. And when you’re first getting into e-learning and you view a final course, it is hard to imagine what all the moving pieces are—especially since you’re viewing slides one at a time.
However, when you peel back the curtain and look at the most basic elements of an e-learning course, you’ll realize that many of these elements are part of most e-learning courses. If you’ve taken or designed at least one online course, you should recognize most of these common course building blocks.
While there’s no rule that governs which elements are in every course, it’s often helpful for new users to know the basics about each element and where it fits in the overall course structure.
Course Welcome Screen or Cover Screen
The course welcome screen is the first slide your learners see. In addition to welcoming learners visually, it usually also provides options for navigating the course modules.
Welcome slides can be static or interactive. Static screens will include the course title and include engaging imagery to set the tone of the course.
Interactive slides can include static images combined with video introductions or animations synced with text and audio narration.
The purpose of the instructions slide is to help learners understand the general functionality of the course player so they know how to navigate through the course. Course instruction slides can be either static or interactive.
Static instructions slides will use arrows, callouts, and text to point out the important features of the course player. Noteworthy features typically include navigation buttons, resource tabs, a transcript menu, and help buttons.
Interactive instructions slides can include narrated videos that demonstrate the course features by syncing annotations and callouts to the narration.
Instructions slides are more important in custom courses that use non-standard navigation or that introduce a new course format. The course player and navigation are pretty standard with today’s e-learning tools, so not every course will need to include this slide. Many course designers prefer to let learners choose whether to view the instructions and will add the instructions slide to a player tab or a navigation button.
The objectives slide gives learners an overview of the course goals. Usually presented in bullet point format, the list shows actionable objectives the learner should know or be able to do after completing the course.
Objectives do not have to be listed in bullet point format. Often, it’s the client, business partner, or organizational style guide that requires objectives to be presented in list format.
There’s actually a trend in the e-learning industry to find creative alternatives to the bulleted format. Alternatives include scenarios and non-graded quizzes to challenge the learner and create buy-in without specifically listing out the objectives.
Content slides are the meat of your course. These are information slides and include screencasts and videos, scenarios, text and images, charts, and much more. For a consistent look and feel across your course, you should base your content slides on predefined layouts.
Practice activities follow content slides and are intended to help learners to help learners strengthen their skills and knowledge. They should include content presented earlier in the module so learners can apply what they just learned.
Knowledge checks are informal slides at the end of each topic, module, or course, where learners can test their progress during a module. These slides might look like typical quizzes (i.e., true/false, multiple choice, etc.), or take on a more casual format, such as a scenario in which learners must make decisions about what to do in a real-life situation. In most courses, knowledge checks are typically scored but not graded against the final course assessment.
The assessment slide serves as a final assessment of what the learner learned during the course. It may function and feel like the knowledge checks or practice activities, but typically the assessment questions are pulled from all course modules and are usually graded.
Summary slides are usually found at the end of each topic, module, and course. Their purpose is to quickly state the key points from that section before moving on to the next topic or module.
Summary slides are typically presented in bullet point format. They can include links back to specific sections in the module to help learners refresh their understanding of one or more key points.
Resource slides provide post-course support for your learners. These slides are typically found at the end of each topic, module, or course. They can also be included in resource tabs on the player so learners can view them on-demand.
Typical resources included are:
- Contact information: People to contact for help or questions about the course
- Continued learning: Additional resources beyond what was in the course
- Job aids: Handouts from the course that can be used as performance support
As a course designer, you have unlimited options for combining e-learning elements in your courses. Your experience level, combined with expectations for your course and learners, will influence many of your choices. And if you’re a new e-learning designer, try covering these common elements to start. Good luck! Leave a comment or post in the forums if you have any other questions about these e-learning elements or want to share ideas for combining them in unique ways.
5 Ideas that Make your E-learning Course Relevant
If you are aiming at creating an effective and engaging course, you need to focus on one main aspect: Relevance. Prior to developing the online course, you need to ask yourself whether the course is relevant to your learners. Does the course offer what learners are looking for? Right from designing the GUI to presenting the content, every element you include should address the issue of relevancy.
Relevancy is also important in a way that it decreases the cognitive load on learners because if the data is relevant, it is easy to relate to a learner’s life.
We have always focused on the relevancy and today with my blog post, I would like to share few relevancy ideas that goes a long way in creative an effective eLearning course.
Relevancy idea #1: Focus on clear course objectives:
Being aware of the importance of relevancy, how relevant the course is to your learners should be obvious within a few minutes of your course. Your learners find the course relevant if something useful is taught to them or if the content can address their concerns. So set up clear course objectives even in the beginning and tell them how they would benefit after taking the course. Your learners would always want to know ‘What’s in store for them’ or whether it is worth taking the course. Setting up clear course objectives would help address this concern and give them reason to continue.
Relevancy idea #2: Incorporate a relevant and effective design
As stated earlier, every element of the course should focus on relevancy. It is important that even the design should be relevant and should enhance the learning experience. E-Learning courses that have a professional and attractive look are more relevant to learners. They set up an attractive atmosphere for learning. Remember, the templates that you choose for your course should also match the content. For example, an e-learning course explaining about drugs can have a template containing tablets in the banner. Take a look at the screenshot below.
Relevancy idea #3: Make your course content actionable
Learners devote their time for learning because they’re surely looking forward to learn something important; something that they can put into practice and something that can enhance their knowledge. To accomplish this, first ask them questions based on their existing knowledge of the content and give them the assurance that they will be able to fulfill their learning requirements at the end of the course. Create scenarios and ask them how they would deal if they come across such situations in their workplace. This approach would naturally attract learners to the course. Take a look at the screenshot below.
Relevancy idea #4: Include a scenario
Learners learn better if they are provided with examples or scenarios that match their real-life situations. So scenario-based learning is again an effective way to accomplish the concept of relevancy. A scenario is essentially a story that is accompanied by an environment, characters and the problem that characters face. The environment portrays the relevant workplace, the character mirrors the learners and the problem is the one which learners have to resolve. Such scenario-based learning allows learners to take on the role of a problem solver, responding to the real workplace situations. Scenario-based learning can also be used in teaching soft skills that will come in handy when communicating with customers. Below is a screenshot that captures a pharmaceutical sales representative communicating with a doctor in order to attain higher sales.
Relevancy idea #5: Achieve relevance through gamification
Lastly, games are an essential element that can be incorporated into e-learning courses to make them both engaging and interesting. Again the relevance of learning games is essential in order to make the learning impactful. There are many kinds of games that can be used such as puzzle games, adventure games, role-play games, and so on. The important thing is you need to analyze and think which type of game could be more suitable and relevant depending on the content. In other words, you need to align the game type with the learning outcome.